Wanderers is a novel by Chuck Wendig (author of Star Wars: Aftermath, Zer0es, and the Miriam Black series), released in June 2019. The story it tells follows a group of people who, suddenly and inexplicably, begin "sleepwalking" down the roads of the midwestern United States - abnormally so, as they do not wake up and walk for weeks on end, adding more members to the "flock" as they march on. They are joined by family, friends, and a few special extras, who collectively become known as "shepherds", watching over their flock even as a disturbed and wary America fears them.
The book gives special focus to four characters, who all become strongly connected to the flock.
- Shana Stewart - A budding photographer, and older sister to the first walker, Nessie.
- Dr. Benjamin "Benji" Ray - works among the CDC in an attempt. to find out why the walkers are so peculiar.
- Matthew Bird - pastor of God's Light Church in Indiana, he never directly interacts with the flock, but finds himself swept into talking about everyone's fears - about how the flock is a sign of the "end times", among other things.
- Pete Corley - a self-described "mother***ing rock god", he gets involved with the flock in hopes of recapturing some fame for himself.
The America surrounding these people and events is a broken one - filled with white supremacy, dangerous political zealots, climate change, among many, many other problems. But as frightening as those issues is the secret behind the walkers - and it may tear the entire world apart.
It may be worth noting that not only has this book been directly compared to The Stand, it gets namedropped within the text.
Beware of unmarked and self-fulfilling spoilers below!
Tropes present in Wanderers:
- A God Am I: Black Swan denies this on its face, but it manages to implant itself in Shana's unborn child and get the former walkers to worship it.
- Action Bomb: Attempting to restrain a walker quickly leads to a gory detonation. The cause of this gets weaponized during the finale.
- Armies Are Evil: How military force around the walkers is framed.
- Benevolent A.I.: Black Swan ultimately is not, though if what it claims the future would have held is accurate, it does manage to save some of humanity in lieu of all of it dying off.
- The Bible is directly referenced a few times throughout the novel.
- Definitely Just a Cold: Jerry Garlin spends roughly four months trying to brush off increasingly dire symptoms.
- Deus Est Machina: Back Swan.
- Global Warming: Directly leads to the "unearthing" and spread of what becomes known as White Mask. It turns out, that is only a lie. The truth still indirectly involves global warming, but it's not behind White Mask at all.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Sadie and Arav. Arav pulls this twice.
- Paranoia Fuel: Once Benji and co. find out what White Mask is, and how it spreads, this trope comes into effect for many characters. All it takes is a sneeze ...
- Parental Abandonment: Shana and Nessie's mother up and left one day, while the family was out shopping.
- The Plague: White Mask.
- Unwanted False Faith: Shana's baby (and by extension, Shana) ends up being used as a living vessel for Black Swan, who arranges itself to be seen as a deity by the other walkers.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: The walkers, while unconscious, experience a simulated Ouray, Colorado, in order to prepare them for their upcoming lives there. Nessie informs Shana that time moves strangely, and Nessie seems to have already processed her father's death while Shana has barely begun to grieve.